Fraud, Scams, and Tips to Help Protect Yourself: Part 1February 26, 2018 | Financial Abuse
This is part one of three in the series, “Fraud, Scams, and Tips to Help Protect Yourself,” written by William Palmer III.
Fraud is becoming an increasing concern for all of us. You may know friends or even loved ones who have been targeted in fraudulent schemes. Though scammers’ tactics are seemingly becoming more complex and more frequently encountered, we have GOOD NEWS. There are red flags you can identify and basic steps you can take to protect yourself and those you care about. Here I will help illustrate some of the more common forms of scams we see and some resources you can use in case you or a loved one is targeted.
Fraud may be more prevalent than you think. Consider the following:
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.
- According to the Department of Justice, fraud and financial abuse schemes targeting the elderly are the growing problems in the United States that cost victims at least $2.9 billion annually.
- According to the National Center on Elder Abuse of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 elder in 20 is financially victimized. However, only 1 case in 44 is reported. The reason for this may be embarrassment on the part of the victim or a desire to minimize calling attention to the situation.
- Nearly 90% of abusers are people whom the victim trusts (according to the National Center on Elder Abuse of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)
You may recall the story of actor Mickey Rooney, who testified to Congress a few years ago about elder abuse and having been financially exploited by family members. Rooney stated he was afraid to seek help because he was “overwhelmed” with fear, anger and disbelief. Rooney’s conservator pointed out that Rooney was “completely competent,” and made reference to the idea that fighting abuse can be complicated due to the individual’s personal fears (loss of control) and/or family relationships. It’s a not-so-subtle reminder that anyone can become the victim of fraud, regardless of age or health.
[The source for the information on Mickey Rooney is http://bit.ly/2sWmda9.]
This is why it is critical to be prepared and to take steps to protect yourself, your family, and your hard earned money. While this information may seem alarming, my goal is to empower you with information and resources to protect yourself and loved ones. It is important to report fraud because scammers will defraud another individual if the perpetrator isn’t stopped. There’s a good chance you are reading this because you’re concerned for a loved one or a friend who may have been targeted by a scammer. Or, perhaps you may want some tips today to protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming victims of fraud. Hopefully with this information and resources you can help to protect yourself and the ones you love. Hopefully you’ll be prepared to act both quickly and calmly to outsmart the scammer.
Here is a list of a few common scams, tips to protect yourself, who to call if you have been victimized, along with common red flags.
1) Collection Fraud Scam.
The term “collection agency” often spurs consumers into settling their debts and scam artists love a scheme that entices people to pay money quickly. With collection fraud, a thief might coercer a victim into paying a debt that he or she may not even have. An individual calls from a fraudulent company, typically named to sound similar to a law firm. The caller may state that he is with the process and summons division” or a similar area and that there is a problem associated with your Social Security number.
You receive a phone call or letter from a company you’re not familiar with advising that you owe money for an unfamiliar reason.
- A caller claims there is a warrant for your arrest and advises you to make an immediate payment to avoid legal trouble.
- A caller pressures you to pay money by claiming that someone will visit your home or place of employment.
- A caller claims to be from the IRS.
- You are instructed to send payment to someone other than the party to which you supposedly owe money.
Tips to protect yourself:
Know your rights. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from the following:
- Using abusive language
- Using deceptive practices
- Contacting you at your place of employment if you tell them not to in writing
- Stating that you’ll be arrested if you fail to pay
Reporting the fraud:
If you believe you have been victimized by collection fraud, report the incident to:
- Your state Attorney General’s office (www.naag.org)
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 877-382-4357 or www.ftc.gov
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at 855-411-2372 or www.consumerfinance.gov
You can find additional information on financial planning by downloading the Washoe Caregivers Guidebook at http://washoecaregivers.org/documents/washoe-caregivers-guidebook/
William Palmer III